It was 15,000 days ago that one of the game’s greatest sluggers hit one of his most famous home runs. It wasn’t necessarily one of his most important homers, but it is one people still remember. It didn’t win the game, and it wasn’t a dramatic homer late in the contest. Why, it wasn’t even in an official game that counted in the standings.
It was 1971, and the contest was the All-Star Game on July 13, 1971.
The batter, of course, was Reggie Jackson. Heading into the day, the AL hadn’t won an All-Star game since 1962. Early on, it didn’t look like they would win here, either. Johnny Bench hit a two-run homer in the top of the second, and Hank Aaron added a solo shot to give the NL a 3-0 lead.
Then came the bottom of the third. When shortstop Luis Aparicio led off with a single, Jackson stepped to the plate, and it didn’t take long for him to leave an impression. He didn’t just hit an offering from Pittsburgh’s Dock Ellis out of the park; he destroyed that pitch.
Jackson is famous for being the first player to stand and admire his longballs instead of running, or at least trotting, to first. It was a form of bragging and gave him more attention, which Jackson liked. Of all the home runs Jackson ever stood to admire, this might be the most famous one. His World Series homers in 1977 are famous as a unit, but this is one that’s famous as a stand-alone.
It also helped cement Jackson’s reputation as a hot dog. Almost all of the great and memorable moments in Jackson’s career came after this one. In July, 1971, Mr. October hadn’t played in a single postseason game yet. For many Americans, watching Jackson stand there and admire his monster shot was the first time they could recall seeing someone do that after connecting. This at-bat isn’t the most famous moment in Jackson’s mythos, but more than any other swing, it created Jackson’s image.
Oh, and it cued an AL comeback. Frank Robinson hit a two-run homer a few minutes later off Ellis for a 4-3 lead. A Harmon Killebrew two-run shot later in the game cemented a 6-4 win. But Jackson’s is the one people remember.
It’s certainly the at-bat that NL pitcher Ellis remembered. He didn’t like Jackson homering, and he certainly didn’t like Reggie standing at the plate admiring the ball. But Jackson was in the AL and Ellis in the NL, so he couldn’t do anything about it.
That is, until 1976, when Ellis switched leagues to become a New York Yankee. Jackson was a Baltimore Oriole that year and on July 27, 1976, Ellis got his revenge. When Jackson led off the eighth, Ellis drilled him in the face with a fastball, injuring Jackson and breaking his sunglasses. Ellis sauntered over, looked at Jackson lying there, and casually asked, “Is he dead?” Jackson had to leave the game and didn’t return to the lineup until July 31.
Ellis had earlier opportunities to hit Jackson—both in that game and a previous meeting—but with a 4-0 lead late in the contest, he felt now would be a good time to allow a base runner. Ellis stayed in and got the shutout.
But the home run is what people remember, and it happened 15,000 days ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” They are listed below with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
2,000 days since the Red Sox sign free agent J.D. Drew.
4,000 days since Hank Sauer dies.
8,000 days since Frank White gets his 2,000th career hit.
1880 Hall of Fame 300-game winner Tim Keefe makes his big league debut.
1884 Leftfielder Sherry Magee is born.
1886 The Detroit Wolverines (a major league team in the NL back then) purchase star second baseman Fred Dunlap from St. Louis for $4,700.
1890 Long John Reilly hits for his third career cycle. He’s the first person to do it three times.
1890 The Cleveland Spiders use a young pitcher making his big league debut: Cy Young.
1891 Jack Stivetts, a pitcher, hits two home runs in one game.
1892 Jack Stivetts throws a no-hitter in an 11-0 Boston win over Brooklyn.
1902 Against rookie Indians pitcher Otto Hess, the Washington Senators lay down 14 bunts, three of which he misplays, and four others go for errors. The other half goes for sacrifice hits. Cleveland wins anyway, 7-6 in 10 innings.
1903 In Philadelphia, part of the Baker Bowl collapses, killing 12 and injuring over 100.
1906 The Red Sox are shutout for the fourth straight time, losing 4-0 to Cleveland.
1908 Johnny Lush throws a shortened game no-hitter, six innings in all.
1912 Inspired by Ty Cobb’s suspension earlier this year, 288 players found the Fraternity of Professional Baseball Players of America, an early attempt at a player’s union.
1917 300-game winner Gettysburg Eddie Plank plays in his final game.
1925 Hall of Fame pitcher Waite Hoyt has his only known stolen base attempt, and he’s caught stealing. He also goes 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs in possibly his best day ever at the plate.
1928 Carl Hubbell allows the only walk-off home he’ll ever allows, and it’s just the third home run he’s allowed. Del Bissionette hits it
1929 Babe Ruth ties a personal best with seven RBIs in a game. It’s the third of four times he does that. He homers twice in today’s game, as he does in all of his seven RBI games. One of his homers is a grand slam. He’ll hit another one the next day.
1930 In the Texas League, Gene Rye of Waco gets three home runs in one inning. His team scores 18 runs in that frame, and he drives in seven of those runs.
1933 200-game winner Paul Derringer has his best career game. The Reds pitcher throws a 12-inning, three-hit shutout for a Game Score of 99 in a 1-0 win over the Cardinals. There is some personal vengeance on the day for Derringer, who’d been traded by St. Louis to Cincinnati earlier this year.
This will be a rare moment of glory for Derringer, who will go 7-27 this year. That record comes despite Derringer pitching adequately; he just has historically bad run support, including a stretch during which the Reds will be shut out in four consecutive Derringer starts.
1933 Pinky Higgins hits for the cycle.
1935 Normally a star on the mound, today Dizzy Dean is a star at the plate as he hits a walk-off homer in the 10th inning for a 6-3 Cardinals win over the Reds.
1939 Ted Lyons loses his 200th decision, giving him a record of 217-200.
1939 Jimmie Foxx takes the mound for Boston and fans one batter in a scoreless inning against Detroit.
1942 The Sporting News calls on baseball to continue segregation, blaming outside agitators looking for their own profit looking for changes.
1945 Andy Messersmith, the first free agent, is born.
1946 Hall of Fame second baseman Tony Lazzeri dies.
1947 Aging Indians pitcher Mel Harder has the worst start of his career: 1.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, and 0 K for a Game Score of 7. Opposing pitcher Fred Hutchinson homers off him. Harder will pitch just four more times before retiring.
1949 Frankie Frisch manages his 2,000th game. His record is 1,036-947.
1949 Johnny Mize lays down a sacrifice bunt, the only one he ever has after May, 1942.
1949 For the first and only time in his career, Phil Rizzuto gets two home runs in one game.
1950 A year after his only two-home run game, Phil Rizzuto joins the 1,000 hit club in style, going 4-for-4 for the first time in his career with two doubles and a triple.
1953 Harry Hanebrink hits a walk-off, bases-loaded triple that scores all of Milwaukee’s runs in a 3-2 Braves win over the Braves. There have been only six three-run walk-off triples since then.
1953 Ted Williams returns to baseball after serving in the Korean War. He pinch hits today and pops up.
1954 Billy Pierce balks for the first time in five years.
1956 Baseball pitcher Ralph Terry makes his big league debut. He’ll be on the mound for the last pitch of two World Series Game Sevens. He surrenders Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off homer in 1960 to the Pirates, and he gets Willie McCovey to line out to clinch a 1-0 Yankees win in 1962 over the Giants.
1957 Bob Horner is born.
1959 The Orioles and White Sox have an epic, 18-inning marathon that ends up a 1-1 tie. Billy Pierce tosses 16 innings for Chicago, allowing 11 hits and three walks while fanning seven. Hoyt Wilhelm pitches 10 innings in relief for Baltimore, allowing just two hits and three walks while fanning seven. Pierce’s Game Score is 100. Wilhelm’s WPA is the second-best known WPA for a reliever: 1.319.
1959 Billy Williams makes his big league debut.
1960 Robin Roberts allows 13 hits in one game, all of which are singles. Only one run scores as a result.
1962 Johnny Klippstein, a pitcher, homers in a 1-0 win.
1962 Willie Mays goes 5-for-5 with two homers. He has just one other five-hit game in his career.
1965 Houston signs free agent Robin Roberts.
1967 Dean Chance tosses a shortened game no-hitter, five innings for Minnesota over Boston.
1967 The Phillies sign free agent Andre Thornton.
1974 Johnny Bench hits his 200th career home run.
1974 Hank Aaron enjoys his 62nd and final career multi-home run game.
1974 The Royals sign free agent veteran Orlando Cepeda.
1974 Norm Cash appears in his final contest.
1975 The Mets fire manager Yogi Berra, who led them to a pennant in 1973.
1975 Victor Zambrano is born.
1978 Scott Sanderson makes his big league debut.
1979 On the day of the memorial service for Thurman Munson, the Yankees rally from a 4-0 deficit to the Orioles for a 5-4 win in the ninth.
1981 National League owners agree to a $20.5 million sale of the Cubs to the Tribune Company.
1981 A split season format for the postseason is approved for the 1981 strike season.
1982 Star outfielder Reggie Smith has his 24th and final multi-home run game.
1983 Chuck Tanner manages his 2,000th game. His record is 1,039-956.
1983 Buddy Bell hits his only inside-the-park home run.
1983 The White Sox top the Orioles, 6-4, pushing manager Tony LaRussa’s career record over .500 (295-294). It’ll be over .500 for the rest of his dugout days.
1983 Mets pitcher Walt Terrell this two homers off Ferguson Jenkins in a 4-1 win over the Cubs.
1984 Keith Hernandez hits his 100th home run.
1984 Wade Boggs gets 11 total bases, his personal best. He’s 4-for-5 with a double and two home runs.
1985 The Players Association begins another strike, but this one will be over in a few days.
1986 Bobby Thigpen, at one point the single-season save record holder, makes his big league debut.
1988 Pirates pitcher Jim Gott balks three times in the eighth inning.
1988 The Tigers win, pushing their all-time cumulative franchise record to 573 games over .500 (7,052-6,479), their all-time peak. They’ll tie it three times later this month but never better it.
1989 It’s the last time any team has a reliever last eight innings in out outing. Scott Sanderson does it for the Cubs, and gets stuck with the loss in a 5-4 game against the Pirates that lasts 18 innings.
1989 Boston retires Carl Yastrzemski’s number (8).
1991 The Angels retire Rod Carew’s number (29).
1991 One-time Braves workhorse Rick Mahler plays in his final game.
1993 It takes just 1,560 games for Tony Gwynn to get career hit No. 2,000.
1996 After a 20-day, 17-game road trip caused by the Olympics, the Braves return to Turner Field in Atlanta.
1996 For the second time in his career, Darryl Strawberry hits three home runs in one game.
1996 Marcel Lachemann quits as Angels manager. John McNamara will take over.
1998 The Pirates strike a deal with PNC Bank that ensures the new Pirates ballpark will be named PNC Park.
1998 Long-time WGN announcer Jack Brickhouse dies at age 82. He worked from the 1940s until 1981.
1998 Toronto trades Randy Myers to the Padres.
1999 Exactly six years after getting his 2,000th hit, Tony Gwynn joins the 3,000-hit club. He does it in style, going 4-for-5. It takes him just 2,284 games to do it.
1999 For the second time in his career, Carlos Delgado hits three home runs in one game.
2001 In a Vanity Fair interview, former Pete Rose friend Tommy Gioiosa alleges that Rose bet on baseball, used a corked bat, and did drug deals.
2002 Robb Nen records his 300th save.
2002 Travis Hafner makes his big league debut.
2003 Kevin Appier returns to Kansas City as the Royals sign the free-agent pitcher.
2004 Colorado trades star outfielder Larry Walker to the Cardinals.
2004 San Diego releases former star third baseman Jeff Cirillo.
2008 Colorado claims Livan Hernandez off waivers from the Twins.
2008 In just his second career start, Pittsburgh’s Jeff Karstens retires the first 23 batters he faces.
2010 The Braves retires No. 11 for Tom Glavine and then lose to the Giants, 3-2 in 11 innings. The Giants score the tying run in the ninth despite not getting a hit and then get the winning run in a hitless 11th inning. The ninth features a walk, a sacrifice fly, and two errors. The 11th features two unintentional walks, an intentional walk, and a sacrifice fly.